I want to come home and my fate is in your hands November 4th. In 2011, I had to move out of Florida, so that I could legally access medical marijuana to treat my Late Stage Lyme Disease. It was not an easy decision; it was a matter of life and death. Here is my story…
I’m a fifth generation Floridian. My family roots run deep in Florida, from the keys all the way up to Jacksonville. I grew up on the beach, wore flip-flops religiously no matter where I traveled, and can still wear a hoodie during 80 degree F weather on a humid Miami night. My entire family lives in Florida, from my fifteen-year-old brother, Cody, my parents, my cousins, my best friends, to my great Aunt Edith who just turned 100 this past September. I missed her birthday party because I must live where I am legally able to treat myself with medical cannabis, in California. My only choices in Florida are to be a criminal, or to be addicted to prescription narcotics; neither of those choices is acceptable.
I was born in Miami in 1989, went to grade school in Tampa, and attended Florida State University on a Bright Futures Scholarship. During my freshman year spring semester, I went camping with a bunch of friends from my dormitory for the weekend. We all slept outside in sleeping bags around the campfire…not worrying about a thing. Over the next six months, I experienced many strange symptoms, wound up in the hospital several times with severe fevers, a bout of strep throat one time, and dehydration, but in the excitement of college life, I shrugged off the warning signals.
June 6th, 2008 was the day my life changed forever. Excruciating nerve pain, that would haunt me for the next five and a half years set in, rendering my arms useless. I couldn’t unscrew bottles of water, pull open a door, push shopping carts, even write with a pencil. I was at the mercy of the loving support of my friends and family, on the goodwill of other people. The dozens of doctors that “treated” me had nothing to offer me, except narcotics…not even a diagnosis! Each doctor I tried failed to alleviate my pain or improve my condition in any way. Over a three-year period, they prescribed Gaba pentin, Vicodin, Percocet, lorazepam, and cyclobenzaprine. The drugs made me tired, and altered my mood, and did nothing for my pain. Worse, I had grown up in a family that consciously minimized pharmaceutical use.
One day, a friend suggested I try cannabis. Pot? No way! I had been taught my whole life that marijuana was a gateway drug; but having exhausted every other option my family could think of, I figured that trying one more “drug” couldn’t hurt. The immediate relief shocked me. Finally, something worked! I had discovered a wonder drug that could interrupt my misery. My mood improved, the visibly bulging vein on my neck would subside, and I could and would actually relax.
The only problem was that I couldn’t access it legally. Living in constant fear that I would get caught, I kept the marijuana a secret from everyone, except a close few friends. I shared the secret with my doctors but they wouldn’t acknowledge its efficacy. So, I kept my medical use hidden; only using cannabis when the pain was so agonizing that I was on the verge of incapacitation. I felt guilty that it helped me…like I was letting everyone in my family down. But without it, I could not sleep, eat, or escape the incessant pain wracking my body. Eventually, I had to accept that living with the risk and the guilt was better than not living at all.
In June of 2010, a doctor in Florida diagnosed with Late Stage Lyme Disease with a Western Blot test. My infectious disease doctor prescribed a six-month regimen of daily intravenous and oral antibiotics. I was prescribed Marinol, the synthetic form of THC, but it did nothing to help my pain. Within six months, the intense doses of antibiotics had destroyed my gut. My infectious disease doctor paused the treatment, as if to wait the storm out, just waiting until he could put me back on antibiotics. Visit after visit (at $500 a pop) went by with no change. My digestive system was trashed; it wasn’t repairing itself, and I dropped from 130 lbs. to 89 lbs. My family was worried I might not survive.
So, we looked for different doctors. I saw a nutritionist, and then an acupuncturist, and I found mild relief with craniosacral chiropractic therapy. Even though it felt like I was trying everything, no real progress was felt or seen. I had no local family in Tallahassee. My boyfriend, Aaron, graduated from FSU a year and half before me; I had had to suspend my studies for a few months because I simply couldn’t function. Steadfast, he stayed in town to take care of me while I finished my degree. He even had to wash my hair. Chronic pain does not just alter the person suffering; it affects everyone who cares for and about that person.
But even with Aaron’s generous assistance I was still fading. I needed alternative treatments for a body ravaged by the Lyme spirochetes and, now, by mega doses of antibiotics. And I needed the cannabis to survive; it alleviated my pain and stimulated my appetite. Without it, I believe I would have died.
Moving to California wasn’t a decision we came to lightly. My parents agreed that it wasn’t safe for me in Florida. I couldn’t risk arrest for my health any longer. I wouldn’t survive jail in my condition. As we drove cross country, through states that had even stricter marijuana laws than the one I was leaving, I felt more trapped than ever. We will never be free until every state in America has legal access to cannabis. Patients live in fear unable to travel to visit doctors or out of town family. Forget vacations. Anywhere that I can’t take cannabis, I cannot visit. How can we call ourselves the “land of the free” when some of us are shackled this way?
In California, I found a new infectious disease specialist, Dr. Harris, who is ranked number one in the state for treating Lyme disease.
“The only thing that helps my pain is medical marijuana,” I mentioned with trepidation.
For the first time in my life, the doctor didn’t break eye contact when I said that but instead nodded along agreeing that my medicine of choice was, in fact, medicine. I can say that through his open, alternative approach to my disease, my life has remarkably improved.
Three years later, I juice cannabis daily that I grow in my own closet. Juicing cannabis does not get the user “high” but has been proven to contain the curative properties. After three years of intensive natural treatments, California law has allowed me to heal in peace by providing me with the freedom from fear and pain. My California infectious disease doctor is an MD; he treats people with antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, as well. The point is that people need and deserve choices. Unfortunately, my body required an option that wasn’t “on the table” in my home state. Your vote could change that.
The care I received from my doctors in Florida was restricted. We must provide Florida doctors and patients deserve to have the ability to participate in the whole conversation. This is why I ask you, old neighbor, to get out and vote Yes on 2 this November 4th. I want to be in Tampa when Aunt Edith turns 101 and when Cody graduates from High School down in Miami. Please let me come home.
Alexis Jones is the creator of the ONE & ONLY DAIRY-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE Granola Bites & chocolate peanut butter CannaChex company called CanServe.
Please read Alexis’ other contributing blogs.
- Medical Marijuana and Lyme Disease…Alexis’ story
- Buying in the Shops VS. Growing at Home: Which is Right for You?
- MMJ patient Alexis & her tips on Growing Cannabis Efficiently: Time is Money!
- The Political Future of Cannabis – by cannabis patient, Alexis
- MMJ Patient Alexis’ Update
- 3 Ways You Can Support the Legalization Movement Today
- Let’s Come Out of the 4/20 Closet by Alexis Jones
- Why Decriminalization isn’t Good Enough